Look, up in the sky!

ro·se·ate (rō′zē-ĭt, -āt′)

  1. Rose-colored: the roseate glow of dawn.
  2. Cheerful or bright; optimistic: a roseate outlook.
    [From Latin roseus, rosy, from rosa, rose.]
    ro′se·ate·ly adv.
    American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.

spoon•bill (ˈspunˌbɪl) n.

  1. any of several large wading birds having a long, flat bill with a spoonlike tip.
  2. any of various other birds having a similar bill, as the shoveler.
    Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010

A bird true to its name and the semi-secret side door into the Savannas

Pine Warbler on a pine tree.

There is a dirt pullout on the east side of Green River Parkway at the Martin/ St. Lucie county line with room for 5 or 6 cars to park. It is right here: LINK to Google map. Most people park there to go for a walk or bike ride on the paved walkway that runs for a few miles along the parkway. But it’s also right near a “secret back way” into the Savannas.

Look carefully after crossing the walkway bridge over the drainage ditch and you will find a gated entrance to a sometimes-overgrown trail that leads to other little-used trails in the southern (Jensen Beach) section of Savannas Preserve State Park. (That section is more easily accessed from Jensen Beach Boulevard, which I recommend for first time visitors or those who want tidier trails.)

You may or may not want to take these trails less traveled, depending on the time of year and your exploring mood. Squish, squish. My progress was slow and careful, but that was fine since I was trying to sneak up on birds.

Pro tip: when you stop and stand still, first look down to make sure you are not standing in an ant mound or close to a snake. Then look around and up.

I was there a few bright December mornings ago and I found some birds like this Red-bellied Woodpecker feasting on holly berries.

Woodpeckers help “plant” holly bushes by spreading the seeds in their droppings. That’s one way to deck the halls.

My trail that morning was next to a wetland. I tuned in to the sounds around me and felt the warmth of the sun in the cool fresh air. This is medicine.

Wild things were near. I’ve always loved the feeling of being surrounded by secret life. What we perceive of it is the tip of the iceberg. See my About page for that poem I love, “Sojourns in the Parallel World.”

I tracked a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher for a while, as he went hunting for small insects and spiders. Catching gnats, another well-named bird.

A tiny, long-tailed bird of broadleaf forests and scrublands, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes itself known by its soft but insistent calls and its constant motion. It hops and sidles in dense outer foliage, foraging for insects and spiders. As it moves, this steely blue-gray bird conspicuously flicks its white-edged tail from side to side, scaring up insects and chasing after them.

The white eye ring is helpful in identifying these little gray birds, along with the busy tail motion.

Another Pine Warbler in a pine tree, where they like to be.

A bird true to its name, the Pine Warbler is common in many eastern pine forests and is rarely seen away from pines. These yellowish warblers are hard to spot as they move along high branches to prod clumps of needles with their sturdy bills.

I notice these birds much more in winter, because there are many more of them … as the northern Pine Warblers migrate south and join the resident Pine Warblers in larger foraging flocks. Favorite food? Pine seeds!

I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.
― Lynn Thomson

Wetlands in early dry season

I stopped by “Green River” to see what I could see. It’s always easy to see a tall white bird like a Great Egret.

As wet season ends and dry season begins, the water is high right now at this water management area off Green River Parkway in Jensen Beach, near the Martin/ St. Lucie County line.

A Great Egret’s wingspan is between 52 and 67 inches. So, up to 5 and half feet from tip to tip.

Win at bird trivia!… The bird with the longest wingspan is the Wandering Albatross, Diomedea exulans, at 11 feet, 11 inches.

A Common Gallinule (heading left) and an American Coot.

Nice side by side comparison as they passed each other among the lily pads. Both species are in the Rallidae family along with rails, soras, crakes, moorhens and swamphens.

I see gallinules at Green River all year but coots only rarely and only in winter.

The waterborne American Coot is one good reminder that not everything that floats is a duck.

“Not everything that floats is a duck.” Nice. Pithy. Reminds me of Tolkien’s Aragorn: “Not all those who wander are lost.”

This pond cypress was a sort of weird Florida Christmas tree with a mirror skirt of water. It’s all so pretty with the lower angle of sunlight as we approach the winter solstice.

Look, a present under the tree… a Common Gallinule.

And this Anhinga was a pretty ornament.

Spirited bird

When Cabo the Crested Caracara is tethered to her perch in the weathering yard at Treasure Coast Wildlife Center, she needs two clips because she has figured out how to free herself from just one attachment.

She is spirited and beautiful and has never outgrown her adolescent sass that I have been told is common among Crested Caracaras, a native Florida bird. She is happiest, it seems, when she travels to events as an educational ambassador for the wildlife center and there are lots of people, noise, and activities around her. She was completely unfazed by the sound of props and jets at the Stuart Airshow in early November, even the F-22 Raptor and the F-16 Falcon. “What’s that bird?” was a common question.

The Crested Caracara looks like a hawk with its sharp beak and talons, behaves like a vulture, and is technically a large tropical black-and-white falcon. It is instantly recognizable standing tall on long yellow-orange legs with a sharp black cap set against a white neck and yellow-orange face. The Crested Caracara is a bird of open country and reaches only a few states in the southern U.S. It flies low on flat wings, and routinely walks on the ground.

She is one of the educational birds (hawks and owls) I have learned to move from the mews to the weathering yard on the days when I volunteer at TCWC. I travel 25 minutes west to Palm City a couple of mornings a week and help with some of the simplest animal care jobs like cleaning enclosures and water dishes, and sometimes feeding, so that the certified wildlife rehabbers can do the more important work. I am also planning to volunteer more at educational events, as my knowledge grows.

Here I am with Maxine the Red-shouldered Hawk at the airshow.

I am definitely enjoying being around the birds and other critters. There are temporary patients being rehabbed and permanent residents who cannot be returned to the wild, often due to wing or eye injuries. But I have neglected my blog a bit since I’ve been getting my bird fun elsewhere!

New Year resolution, one month early: back to bird blogging!

Pigeon finds its happy place

The pigeon was standing under a leaky water pipe at Jensen Beach causeway and letting water drip slowly down its face onto its neck and back – a slow-motion bird-bath shower. The water was making a little puddle around its feet.

The grackle was curious, and waiting its turn for a sip and a dip.

When there are so many pigeons and they are so common, you may overlook them and miss their pretty iridescence or interesting habits.

Pigeons have a super power I would love to have (besides flying, of course)…

Pigeons can find their way home, even if released from a distant location blindfolded. They can navigate by sensing the earth’s magnetic fields, and perhaps also by using sound and smell. They can also use cues based on the position of the sun.

A nice catch!

The early bird catches the oyster. And the oystercatcher!

I spotted an American Oystercatcher at the Stuart Causeway, west side, early this morning. I haven’t seen too many of these birds around here – maybe because we are at the edge of their range?

This one appears to be a juvenile. The clue is the dark-tipped bill.


Herons and egrets can look both stately and spacey at the same time.

This Little Blue Heron was a fine specimen.

I took these photos at the boardwalk at Twin Rivers Park, Rocky Point yesterday in the late afternoon.

I brought you a gift, my love

This male Boat-tailed Grackle nabbed a bait fish from a fisherman’s net at the Jensen Beach bridge causeway and flew over to the shrubbery where he ate about half of it then dropped it near a female grackle.

She picked it up then ate the rest, and possibly fell in love with a handsome thief.

Compare: Little Blue Heron and Snowy Egret

At first glance, these two birds belong in the “white heron/egret” category of wading birds found at water’s edge. Snowy Egret, I thought, before I took a good look.

Jensen bridge.

We were doing that fun John-and-Amy thing where we drive around in our old Jeep with a fishing rod in back. We stop now and then, here and there, for John to cast a few and me to snap a few.

Birds on the seawall and down on the rocks were watching bait fish move in with the tide.

Not the same bird.

These two were close together on the wall.

I got a good look at the legs and feet, bills and lores, and realized one was a Snowy Egret (left) and the other a Little Blue Heron (right), a species that is white as a juvenile.

Snowies have black bills with a yellow patch, or lore, between their beaks and eyes, and yellow feet with black legs (mostly all black, but sometimes just black on the front of their legs!) Young Little Blues have gray-green legs, darker gray-to-black bills that are slightly thicker.

Both are in the Ardeidae family (herons, egrets, bitterns) and the Egretta genus of medium herons mostly breeding in warm climates.

Egretta thula

Looks like somebody was drawing with chalk where this Snowy Egret is standing! I like the yellow feet with the yellow flower.

Egretta caerulea

Little Blue Heron, not a Snowy Egret! Someday this bird will be a lovely, moody blue-gray-purple color, but not yet.

Here’s an adult Little Blue Heron, from photos I took last March.

Osprey wings

Osprey soars over the beach on Hutchinson Island a couple of days ago.

These large fish-eating raptors have a wingspan of four-and-a-half to six feet. They weigh between two and four-and-half pounds. That seems like a lot of wing for the weight!